Monday, April 29, 2013

no. 170 - mike cuellar

Who is the man: Mike Cuellar had just finished one of the greatest seasons anyone would have in 1970, winning 24 games and pitching the victory in the final game of the World Series against the Reds.

Can ya dig it: Is that Earl Weaver in the background on the left?

Right on: I'm not sure what that structure is behind Cuellar -- perhaps the netting behind home plate -- but it make it appear as if Cuellar and his teammates are in a tunnel.

You see this cat Cuellar is a bad mother: I'm giving away the write-up on the back of the card, but it needs to be said here. In 1970, Cuellar tied for the major league lead in wins with 24, hit a grand slam in the AL playoffs against the Twins, and won the Game 5 finale of the World Series with a complete-game six-hitter (after giving up three runs in the first!).

Shut your mouth: In the same year Cuellar did all that, he also led the American League in earned runs allowed (115, tied with Mickey Lolich) and home runs allowed (34).

No one understands him but his woman: Cuellar was known as one of the craftiest pitchers around, perpetually outsmarting hitters. On his baseball-reference bullpen page is this quote from his former catcher Elrod Hendricks:

"Mike always thinks two pitches ahead. When they make an out on one of his set-up pitches, he looks like they've spoiled his fun."

(A word about the back): Cuellar won 67 games between 1969-71. I don't care what you think about wins as a stat, 67 wins to a pitcher's name in three years is doing something right.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

no. 169 - ed herrmann

Who is the man: Ed Herrmann had just completed the most successful season of his major league career at the time this card came out. He hit 19 home runs in just 297 at-bats in 1970, batting .283.

Can ya dig it: I have no idea why Herrmann is positioned off to the right in the photo. It's like the photographer wanted you to focus on the rag hanging from a hook in the dugout.

Right on: The blue White Sox uniforms look so strange.

You see this cat Herrmann is a bad mother: Herrmann tied a record for double plays turned by a catcher in a  single game when he was involved in three against the Orioles in 1972. The White Sox turned five double plays that day, but lost the game.

Shut your mouth: Herrmann's teammates gave him the nicknames "Fort Herrmann" and "Hoggy."

No one understands him but his woman: Herrmann caught three knuckleball pitchers during his time in Chicago, Hoyt Wilhelm, Eddie Fisher and Wilbur Wood.

(A word about the back): The leading home run hitter on the White Sox in 1970, of course, was Beltin' Bill Melton with 33.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

no. 168 - bruce dal canton

Who is the man: Bruce Dal Canton wasn't even a Pirate by the time this card was issued. He was dealt to the Royals (along with Freddie Patek) in December of 1970.

Can ya dig it: The "Dal" in Bruce's name has always puzzled me. Why "Dal"? Why is separate from "Canton"? I'm sure there is a reason for this that is easily researched, but I refuse to do so.

Right on: Dal Canton looks very happy in virtually all of his cards. I invite you to take a look at them. It's quite charming.

You see this cat Dal Canton is a bad mother: Dal Canton was signed at an open tryout after making one last-ditch effort at a major league career. He was teaching high school students at the time. Must have been pretty bad ass to tell your students, "Sorry, can't teach you anymore. I'm going to pitch for the Pirates."

Shut your mouth: Dal Canton was dealt from the Pirates the year before they won the World Series. Not as bad, but equally as frustrating, Dal Canton was dealt from the Royals the year before they won three straight AL West titles.

No one understands him but his woman: When Bobby Cox took over as Braves manager in 1990, he replaced pitching coach Dal Canton with Leo Mazzone.

(A word about the back): "A veteran of ... Little League ball." ... Just stop it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

no. 167 - tom grieve

Who is the man: Tom Grieve, a first-round pick by the Senators in 1966, had just completed his first season in the major leagues, batting .198 in 47 games.

Can ya dig it: Tom's got quite the choice of bats there. And some pretty cool driving gloves.

Right on: This is Grieve's rookie card. He looks insanely young in this photo, especially with how he looked just four years later. I'm wondering if this is an earlier photo, from prior to 1970.

You see this cat Grieve is a bad mother: Grieve's done a lot in his baseball career. He's been a player, a general manager, a broadcaster, and a father of a major leaguer, Ben.

Shut your mouth: Grieve has been a Rangers broadcaster since 1995. He missed a few weeks in 2008 when he underwent prostate surgery.

No one understands him but his woman: Tom Grieve and Ben Grieve were the first father and son to each go in the first-round of the major league draft. I wonder if Tom's wife and Ben's mom, Kathy, is sick of hearing about that.

(A word about the back): Now I want to figure out how many times the word "hot-shot" has appeared on a baseball card.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

no. 166 - joe hoerner

Who is the man: Joe Hoerner had completed his first season with the Phillies when this card was released. The former Cardinals relief ace pitched in 44 games for Philadelphia.

Can ya dig it: Hoerner looks like he's wearing lip gloss in this photo.

Right on: Nice view of the Dodger Stadium grandstand in the background.

You see this cat Hoerner is a bad mother: Hoerner was thrown out of the final game he ever pitched. In 1977 while with the Reds, he hit the Pirates' Frank Taveras with a pitch. Taveras charged the mound, Hoerner punched Taveras in the face, a brawl broke out, and Hoerner was booted from the game.

Shut your mouth: Hoerner suffered heart-related problems while he was pitching early in his career when he was in the minor leagues. During one game, he collapsed on the mound and was administered last rites. Doctors guessed his problems had to do with injuries suffered in a previous car accident and artery constriction when he threw. Hoerner experimented with throwing sidearm and it was effective enough that he threw sidearm the rest of his career.

No one understands him but his woman: Hoerner was a pretty wild guy. Not only was he involved in the auto accident, but he was in a boating accident that killed two people after his career. (He also suffered a severed tendon in his finger when a champagne bottle exploded in his hand while celebrating the Cardinals World Series title in 1967). He was a known prankster, once taking over the team bus.

(A word about the back): Floating head! It's been 42 cards since the last floating head.

Monday, April 15, 2013

no. 165 - cesar tovar

Who is the man: Cesar Tovar was at the peak of his career in 1971. He finished 18th in the AL MVP voting in 1970 and would compile 204 hits during the 1971 season.

Can ya dig it: Tovar, and players like him who were at the end of their career in the mid-1970s, intrigued me as a youngster. I'd look at earlier cards of them in their heyday and wonder what it was like to see them play when the were at their prime.

Right on: That half-assed swing you're taking, Mr. Tovar, does not impress me.

You see this cat Tovar is a bad mother: Tovar is known as one of four players to play all nine positions in one game. He was the second player to do it.

Shut your mouth: Tovar was regarded by both manager Billy Martin and owner Charlie Finley as the player who could get his teammates to play. If a fellow teammate needed a spark or a kick in the pants, Tovar was the player who would do the job.

No one understands him but his woman: Tovar had a reputation for sticking out his arm in order to get hit by the baseball when he was the plate. During a year in winter ball, one umpire called any ball that hit Tovar in the arm a strike because the ump knew Tovar's strategy.

(A word about the back): Tovar finished with 186 career stolen bases with the Twins. He's now third on the Twins' all-time list behind Chuck Knoblauch (276) and Rod Carew (271).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

no. 164 - reds rookie stars

Who is the man: Frank Duffy and Milt Wilcox each received their first taste of major league competition in 1970 with Duffy appearing in six games and Wilcox in five for the National League pennant-winning Reds.

Can ya dig it: Wow, this card has seen better days! But not in my collection. I received it in a trade long ago in the shape that you see it.

Right on: They liked wearing their hats high then, didn't they?

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Hardly, they're rookies. If you need more evidence, Duffy wore glasses for much of his career and Wilcox's full first name is "Milton." Not. Bad. Ass.

Shut your mouth: This is the third time that I've written about Wilcox for one of these set blogs. I think I've said all I can say about him.

No one understands him but his woman: Duffy helped lead the way to one of the most lopsided trades in history. After three quality years in the minors with the Reds, he quit and went home after a dispute with management. That led the Reds to trade Duffy to the Giants in May of 1971 -- for George Foster.

(A word about the back): Wilcox did indeed "hurl in 1970 World Series." He pitched in two games, taking the loss in Game 2 when he allowed two singles and a double after coming on in relief in the fifth inning, which proved to be a five-run inning for the Orioles.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

no. 163 - buck martinez

Who is the man: Buck Martinez barely played pro baseball in 1970, spending most of the year serving in the Air National Guard. He played just six games for the Royals, yet received a card.

Can ya dig it: Martinez looks very bizarre without his mustache. And, I don't know how the photographer did it, but Martinez appears all of 4 feet tall in this picture. He's listed as being 5-foot-10.

Right on: Buck is the first baseball-playing Martinez I ever knew, just a shade before Ted Martinez and slightly before Tippy and Dennis Martinez.

You see this cat Martinez is a bad mother: Martinez's most famous home plate encounter as a catcher happened in 1985 when he broke his leg as the Mariners' Phil Bradley slammed into him. After tagging Bradley out, Martinez managed to throw to third base in a bid to catch an advancing Gorman Thomas. The throw went into left field, and when Thomas tried to go home, Martinez was there to tag Thomas out, broken leg and all. All caught on video, of course.

Shut your mouth: Martinez is known more now as the voice of the Blue Jays. But I think more people talk about his hair than his broadcasting.

No one understands him but his woman: Martinez's managing stint with the Blue Jays didn't last long. Hired for the 2001 season, Toronto went 80-82. Martinez was fired 53 games into the following season.

(A word about the back): "Veteran of Little League ..." Come on, now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

no. 162 - jack billingham

Who is the man: Jack Billingham broke through as a starting pitcher in 1970. After spending most of 1969 in relief, he won 13 games in 187-plus innings pitched for the Astros.

Can ya dig it: This is the only time that you'll see Billingham wearing an Astros cap on a Topps baseball card. He's hatless in the 1970 set, and was dealt to the Reds in late 1971.

Right on: As you can see by the signature, Billingham's actual first name is John.

You see this cat Billingham is a bad mother: Billingham's earned run average in seven World Series games pitched is 0.36. He threw 25-plus innings with the Reds, making three starts, and went 2-0.

Shut your mouth: After giving up Hank Aaron's record-tying 714th home run in 1974, Billingham said, "It wasn't a bad pitch, but it wasn't good enough against Hank Aaron."

No one understands him but his woman: Had I been following baseball in the early 1970s, I know Billingham would be a constant source of angst. Billingham started out with the Dodgers and they left him available for the 1968 expansion draft. The Expos picked him up and then dealt him to the Astros. Billingham would go on to have some terrific years for the Reds, particularly his 1973 season. I've often wondered what possessed the Dodgers to leave Billingham unprotected.

(A word about the back): Eight complete games wasn't much in 1971, but I guess it was enough to mention then. Billingham would throw 16 in 1973.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

no. 161 - baseball coins checklist

Who is the man: Hmmm, another mystery man at the top of a checklist. I'm going to say it's Carl Yastrzemski. It looks only vaguely like Yastrzemski, but he's got a coin right there at No. 58, so that's good enough for me.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the most interesting cards in the set to me, and it's been that way for a long time. This is a card checklist for a coin set. It's a cross-promotional checklist! I don't know if there have been other examples of this, but this fascinated me when I first saw it.

Right on: Clarence Gaston is the first coin the set. No Rose. No Robinson. Clarence Gaston. Tremendous.

You see this checklist is a bad mother: This set seems like a mother to complete. From what I've read, one coin was included in 10-card packs. I don't know if this was for all the series in the set or just later series. But with 153 coins to collect, that's asking you to buy a lot of packs.

Shut your mouth: I've never seen one of these coins live. I own 1964 Topps coins and 1987 coins, but nothing from '71. (Here's a look at bunch of them together).

No one understands him but his woman: Maybe my opinion would be different if I was a kid collecting in 1971, but I really don't care for collector coins.

(A word about the back): Coins of Duane Josephson, Joe Hague and Jerry McNertney. That's quite an inclusive coin set.

Monday, April 1, 2013

no. 160 - tom seaver

Who is the man: Tom Seaver was about "The Man" as you can get in 1971. No, his 1970 season wasn't as good as his 1969 season, but it was still pretty darn great. He set an NL record for right-handers with 283 strikeouts.

Can ya dig it: Just a very weird look on Seaver's face.

Right on: This is the first time on a Topps baseball card that we actually see that Seaver has an arm. His 1967, 68, 69 and 70 cards are all head shots. Even his 1970 Super card is a head shot. And the pix of Seaver on the 1970 and 1971 leaders cards are cropped so you can't see his arm. Thank goodness for Kelloggs in 1970 and 1971. Both of them have Seaver in throwing poses much like this one.

You see this cat Seaver is a bad mother: All right, I was going to wait until the back of the card to write this, but if striking out 19 batters in a game, including 10 consecutive batters to end the game, isn't bad-ass, then we need to come up with a new definition of the term.

Shut your mouth: Longtime New York Daily News writer Dick Young's June 1977 column claimed that Seaver and Seaver's wife Nancy, who were friends with Nolan Ryan and his wife Ruth, were jealous of Nolan Ryan's salary. That caused Seaver to demand a trade from the Mets, which led to a deal with the Reds. Until then the two sides had been bickering but Seaver had not demanded a trade until the column, which he called "the straw that broke the camel's back."

No one understands him but his woman: Nancy Seaver told People magazine after the trade: "I talk to Ruth Ryan about babies, not baseball."

(A word about the back): This is not one of Seaver's most photogenic cards, front or back.